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I am in a big dilemma :\

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libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04

I currently have a decent computer with a lack of RAM. It is only 256MB which is swapping a bit too much, especially considering how sensitive I've become to hearing that dreadful sound of disk scratching. I can't stand this anymore. It feels like being choked every time I want to do something that requires more than a few firefox tabs or a couple of konqueror windows and whatnot. I am *always* in a swap.

But to get more memory for this machine is out of the question. It is old DDR memory which is deliberately overpriced, but DDR2 memory is not supported on my motherboard. So I had this plan on replacing the core components only (motherboard, CPU and memory) plus a new case. All good, the CPU would be quite decent and memory would be 512 DDR. It doesn't end up too expensive.

I wouldn't have a dilemma if the story would end there though. In the middle of June I am going to an iCommons conference in Dubrovnik here in Croatia. It is for two days. Can I show up there without a laptop?

This is really the biggest reason why I now have to consider a laptop, which puts the above plan in doubt. The biggest problem is that laptop is at least twice as expensive as above desktop upgrades, and yet the only real reason for it is this iCommons conference, these two days.

So, here are the options I have, and about which I am having a hard time making a proper decision. The first option is to go for a decent laptop and give up on the desktop upgrades. I would use this laptop as my desktop then, plugging it to my speakers, keyboard, mouse and LCD at home. But this brings a few questions:

- Can laptop really stand being worked on most if not all of the day, as my desktop does? The only time I envision turning it off would be when I'm a sleep. Are laptops fit for being constantly and intensively powered on and worked on?

- What about heat? Laptops don't get cooled the same way and as easily as desktops. If I work with it so much as above, would heat be an issue?

- An internet connection problem at home (where I am still most of the time); there is no wifi in this area (heck not even ADSL). I use an EDGE USB modem plus a satellite download over a PCI DVB card. The latter obviously can't fit into a laptop so I would have to use an old computer as an internet router and setup connection sharing between it and my laptop. This immediately removes the benefit of mobility when at home, unless and until I can set up some sort of a wireless LAN system to cover my home area. Also, it seems that some things don't work too well over shared connection. For example, my sisters can't listen to internet radio over XMMS. I don't know why.

So considering these issues, is it worth it for me to replace my desktop with a laptop?

Second option is to buy a really low end laptop as cheap as I can get it (and then do the desktop upgrade as above), just to have something to carry around the few times I go away somewhere (right now I only plan on going to Ubuntu Conference in Zagreb, iCommons in Dubrovnik and FOSDEM next year). The problem with that is simply that even low end laptops do end up quite pricy. I can't get anything decent below $300. I feel bad paying $300 for something I'd use so little and something that's basically already getting obsolete.

The third option is not to buy a laptop (and do a desktop upgrade), but to buy a PDA instead, something that would last. Funny as it may be, this is where OpenMoko Neo1973 presents a dilemma. It doesn't support wifi right now and the Phase 1 model which is going to be sold in time for June is aimed at developers and wont be the full mass market ready model which will be sold in September this year. It's price is $350, but I would basically get only a smartphone with basic phone functions (something I already have with my mobile) plus an awesome bit of tinkering capability. Eye You know.. I can even live with that if it only had wifi support. Without wifi support I can't use it connect online when I go to iCommons.

They say that "early adopters" who buy this preliminary version of Neo1973 will probably get discounts if they decide to buy again the mass market version later. I can even live with that. Besides, I've just launched a site about this sort of mobile devices (mobiliberty.com). I do feel good supporting the project financially. BUT without wifi.. this doesn't resolve my iCommons problem right now. And that's setting me off..

Alternatively I could get some other PDA like Sharp Zaurus or maybe Nokia N70 if not too expensive (didn't find it on the web in Croatia yet) and use that until I buy OpenMoko by the end of the year.

Anyway... if you've read me this far thank you! Smiling If you've got any thoughts feel free to share. Maybe you've been in similar dilemmas yourself?

Thank you

dylunio's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-20
As I told you on IRC you

As I told you on IRC you don't need a laptop for conferences (I went around FOSDEM with a notepad and pen). Thus you should go for the best machine possible for you, a desktop.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
Thanks dylunio. I sometimes

Thanks dylunio. I sometimes tend to make things more complex than they really are. I haven't been to such conferences and I somehow got this idea into my head that it's kind of bad not to have a laptop there. Laughing out loud Although, it would be good to have some internet access, but I suppose I can have enough of it by going to an internet cafe or some such...

Hmm, I guess desktop it is then, and then later OpenMoko powered Neo1973. Smiling

tbuitenh's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-21
libervisco wrote: But to
libervisco wrote:

But to get more memory for this machine is out of the question. It is old DDR memory which is deliberately overpriced, but DDR2 memory is not supported on my motherboard. So I had this plan on replacing the core components only (motherboard, CPU and memory) plus a new case. All good, the CPU would be quite decent and memory would be 512 DDR. It doesn't end up too expensive.

So you would keep only the soundcard, video card and disk? Seems like a good idea.

Quote:

I wouldn't have a dilemma if the story would end there though. In the middle of June I am going to an iCommons conference in Dubrovnik here in Croatia. It is for two days. Can I show up there without a laptop?

YES. Only nerds in the bad meaning of the word take laptops to conferences. They're inconvenient (all that shutting down and booting again when moving from one room to another) and they are heavy. Taking a laptop with you means you aren't really interested in the speaker and want to continue chatting on IRC. I have NEVER seen anyone use a laptop for anything else than IRC during a conference, except for the guy who was editing wikipedia (the page was unrelated to the topic).

If you want to have style, get yourself a notepad and pen that look "official".

Now, to answer the questions:

Quote:

- Can laptop really stand being worked on most if not all of the day, as my desktop does? The only time I envision turning it off would be when I'm a sleep. Are laptops fit for being constantly and intensively powered on and worked on?

My acer doesn't have trouble with being on for hours.

Quote:

- What about heat? Laptops don't get cooled the same way and as easily as desktops. If I work with it so much as above, would heat be an issue?

It depends on the type of cpu. If you buy a laptop with a desktop cpu, it will get hot and make lots of noise. Those are no good for laptop use either, by the way. They use up their batteries way too fast.

You could do like me and configure cpufreqd such that the cpu is always at its slowest speed, except when running certain programs that take a lot of time or need the speed. It will be very quiet Smiling .

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
tbuitenh wrote:So you
tbuitenh wrote:

So you would keep only the soundcard, video card and disk? Seems like a good idea.

Well I don't have a sound card as I use onboard sound. But yes, video card, disk, CD burner and a DVD player are all kept. Why buy it all over again when those are still good and even fairly new. All of these are actually newer than the motherboard and CPU in the comp (I bought the burner in 2005, the DVD player, hard disk and video card (just last december) in 2006).

tbuitenh wrote:

(...)
If you want to have style, get yourself a notepad and pen that look "official".

Excellent points. Smiling Well, I'll bring my OpenMoko Neo1973 on FOSDEM next year, but you've convinced me a laptop isn't all that much of a good idea. I'll also bring a notepad and a pen for sure.. it's still faster for note taking than typing on a Neo's screen I imagine.. (despite my awful handwriting). Smiling

Thanks again guys. Now.. through the next week or two I'll be shopping for some cool core components. I'm aiming at nothing less than 64bit AMD Athlon X2 (two cores!). That with a case, memory and mbo is still twice as cheap as an average laptop. Smiling

Cheers

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Joined: 2006-11-20
a tape recorder

so you dont have to worry about copying everything and you can make time stamp references for notes. some digital models transcribe the audio into text which can be transferred over to pc. I used a pocketpc and targus foldout keyboard before my laptop. It worked on/off and syncing was always a problem. But it was a lightweight solution and had wifi.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
That seems like a good

That seems like a good suggestion too yeah.. Well my current mobile phone can record audio (and video) actually, but only in smaller chunks I believe.

Neo will have audio recording too. It should have wifi in mass market version too. Smiling

free-zombie's picture
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Joined: 2006-03-08
DON'T get something that's

DON'T get something that's becoming obsolete. Get something that IS obsolete. My laptop for instance, I got it for about €300 on eBay; it's quite decent, though also only 256MB RAM. However, the fact that is pretty much IS obsolete means that it'll still be worth at least €250 (probably more...) in two years or so.

but your best choice is probably to upgrade your desktop... (is DDR really THAT over-priced??)

free-zombie's picture
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Joined: 2006-03-08
I'd like to add that this

I'd like to add that this largely depends on the conference. On the Linuxtage, almost everyone had a laptop, and used it between talks and in workshops. However, in talks they weren't as common (I myself occasionally took notes on my laptop in talks because I was carrying it around anyway...)

But I've never been to something large and serious.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
Well it's overpriced

Well it's overpriced enough. The thing is I was planning on upgrading my desktop this year anyway, and this RAM issue just adds to the reason. When I'm upgrading then it better be good, not something I'll want to upgrade next year again.

About an obsolete laptop.. I guess you're right, but it doesn't appear to be a big need right now... Maybe I will buy something obsolete if I *really* start needing it. But I'd rather give $350 for Neo1973 than $300 for an obsolete laptop. :\

kode's picture
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Joined: 2006-04-19
So, how much is 512MB of

So, how much is 512MB of DDR RAM there?

About $50 here in Canada...

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
It seems to be the same,

It seems to be the same, around $50 for 667Mhz, except for Crucial which is about $70 and more consistently more expensive than other manufacturers. Must be of higher quality?

1GB seems to be roughly almost twice as much. I'm a bit drawn to buying 1Gb straight, but considering the price it's probably better to start with 512. I think I should never normally use more than 350MB memory anyway.

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Joined: 2005-12-18
I was in the same dilemma

I was in the same dilemma four months ago when I was about to buy a new computer. I decided to buy a desktop replacement laptop as I travel often and the idea of being able to just bring my system with me was very attractive, because I spend several months a year away from home.

Uptime is not an issue with this laptop (Acer Aspire 9300), I use it in the same way I used desktop I had before it, keeping it on all the time (it's only four months old, however, so I can't be certain it won't die suddenly one night Smiling). I think this is true for other laptops as well. Heat is also not a problem, keyboard is only slightly warmer on one side. Although I use it practically as a desktop PC (not carrying it around unless I'm travelling), laptop battery comes in very handy because it serves as an excellent UPS.

Downsides are that you can get much more powerful desktop PC for the same money (or equivalent for about half the money), it is very hard to find a laptop without Windows preinstalled and you can't hand-pick the components, which is especially the problem because often same model of laptop comes with different components.

It is pretty hard to be sure that the wireless card is supported natively on Linux, for instance, because laptop "has wireless", but it isn't explicitly stated which card is it or does it vary between various "submodels" of that particular model, so a little digging is required. The only things not working here are integrated winmodem (I actually didn't even try it and don't know which model is it, so it might also work) and integrated webcam (not actually a feature I'd use, I was more like "if it works, ok, if not, who cares" when I was buying it).

All in all, if you really need the mobility then laptop is obviously better (although more expensive) choice, but if you plan to use it on the same desk 99% of the time then it makes more sense to go for the desktop. If you can get a desktop and some other device that serves your needs on conferences and such (but is smaller and thus more handy there) for the money you would spend on buying the laptop, then desktop seems like much better choice.

libervisco's picture
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Joined: 2006-05-04
Thanks, you cemented my

Thanks, you cemented my choice. Desktop it is, and that smaller handy mobile device will be Neo1973, as soon as it's ready. I can't wait. Smiling

The prices of laptops seem to be falling down though so in a few years it might be easier to go for it, but right now they are indeed just much more expensive compared to the same amount of power you get on a desktop.

Cheers

a thing's picture
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Joined: 2005-12-20
later sound->text on PC

If you get a recorder that doens't have sound-to-text conversion, there's probably some program you could use later on a PC.

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